Category Archives: GERMAN

Despre “sfânta” ospitalitate

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A fost odată ca niciodată…. literalmente.

Petrecându-mi eu zilele în pitoreasca Bavarie și târându-mi țurloaiele pe strada mohorâtă de toamnă și de ploaie ca să-mi duc odrasla la grădiniță, unde nu-mi stă frate mintea-n loc când dau peste următoarea arătare:

Ei bine, da, un wohnmobil. Un camper. Ce mare filosofie, ați zice voi, naivilor. Ce mare filosofie, m-am gândit și eu.

Nu-i mai mare decât unul normal și e parcat perfect regulamentar pe o străduță nu foarte înghesuită (nu există semne de interzis, iar strada e publică). Îmi sar în ochi afișele cu care e tapetat și mă apropii să citesc. Pe măsură ce citesc, ochii mi se bulbucă și încep a-mi face cruci în mod reflex în mijlocul drumului. Mai fac doi pași, încă un afiș. Mai fac doi, încă 3. Pe partea opusă, încă unul roșu aprins. (În total șase afișe.)

Cele mari și colorate grăiesc așa:

Ceea ce faceți aici cu săptămânile (hm?…trec pe acolo zilnic și nu l-am observat până acum, n.m.) este un dispreț față de buna vecinătate și, mai ales, un semn al nepăsării față de aproapele. Parcarea unui vehicul atât de mare (!în fața locuințelor, respectiv a teraselor concetățenilor este un semn de egoism și indiferență, așa cum se găsește adesea la oamenii prost crescuți. (…ca să înțelegeți mai bine, camperul se află la vreo 5 metri de cea mai apropiată locuință, nu e proțăpit direct în fața geamului nimănui; terasele cu pricina au in față: o grămadă de tufe de protecție, apoi un spațiu verde cu pomi și gard viu, apoi trotuarul. Mașina se află dincolo de trotuar, pe șosea.)

“Locul de parcare de mai în față, de la colțul străzii, care a devenit astfel complet confuz și periculos, demonstrează încă odată prostia deținătorului camperului. (…colțul ăla era periculos și înainte, orice mașină mai înaltă reduce vizibilitatea, doar că… omul ăsta nu stă în curbă deloc, dimpotrivă!) În plus, se mai adaugă și faptul că se îngreunează situația parcării locatarilor din cauza unui vehicul al cărui loc nu e aici.  (De câte ori trec eu pe acolo, juma’ de stradă e goală – între timp am trecut și seara.) Nu departe, la câteva sute de metri distanță, există o parcare mare, aproape goală, în fața bazinului de înot.  Ar fi frumos din partea dumneavoastră (după ce l-au făcut cu ou și cu oțet…) dacă ați folosi-o. (…atâta doar că parcarea aia e la juma’ de kilometru și e interzisă în mod expres camperelor!)

Vă mulțumim pentru înțelegere! Locatarii.”

Continui să citesc. De data asta, nevroza se lăfăie pe parbriz:

Stimate domnule posesor al wohnmobilului,

Ați parcat astăzi (tăiat și scris peste: ieri, 14.10.2016), direct în fața terasei locuinței mele și, când mă uit în față, nu mai văd decât un perete alb. Vă rog să fiți atât de amabil încât să parcați fie cu 10 metri mai în spate (în curbă? păi nu ziceați că nu e bine….?), fie cu 50 m mai în față, acolo nu deranjează vederea nimănui (cum? toate blocurile din aval și amonte au geamuri și terase înspre șosea, singurul loc “neutru” e luat)  și în plus nici nu riscați să vă fie murdărit de frunze sau de fecalele de la păduchii pomilor.” (…câtă creștinească grijă!)

(porțiune ilizibilă, că nu m-am apucat să-i mut omului ștergătorul de parbriz, ca vecinii binevoitori), apoi “dar nu direct în fața ferestrelor locatarilor”.

Simt că e momentul să menționez pentru ultima oară că mașina nu se află imediat în fața niciunei ferestre, că o despart destui metri și destul spațiu verde de orice locuință, și că mașina doar stă acolo – adică nu lasă motorul să ruleze ca să-i umple de gaze de eșapament, nu urlă din ea manele, nu-i țiuie noaptea alarmele. Doar stă. Regulamentar. Unde cineva nu are chef ca ea să stea.

Biletul continuă apoi în crescendo, printr-o tumbă retorică subtilă:

“Vă mulțumim mult pentru mutare!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (sic), apoi, adăugat de mână:

“Și mai găsesc că nu este o atitudine de bun vecin să dați jos și să ignorați prietenoasele (!huh?) noastre rugăminți scrise!!!” 

Mai jos, tot de mână, dar cu roşu, apogeul:

“Noi, în Bavaria, avem o deviză: trăiește și lasă și pe alții să trăiască!” (Pe bune, vi se pare?! Sincer, nu-ș ce-ar zice tipul ăsta dacă l-aș întreba… și încă să vezi chestie, și mașina lui are tot număr de Bavaria, ba chiar de München…plătește și el pe aici impozite…)

În fine, afișele astea se repetau cu isterie crescândă de jur împrejurul mașinii. Grijuliu, autorul (sau autorii), le plasaseră pe unele dintre ele în folii de plastic, ca să nu le anihileze ploaia. (Alea colorate erau însă lipite cu scotch direct pe caroseria mașinii).

Mare-i grădina Ta, Doamne, și mulți… încearcă să se uite pe geam la ea și nu pot de un biet camper alb care le răpește priveliștea.

No justification for mass murders

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I have kept my mouth shut for the past week to process the terrifying and abhorrent events that unfolded in Germany and France. Trying to get to the facts. Trying to make sense of the senselessness.

But as I keep browsing through (parts of) the press, I can keep quiet no longer. I have read too many articles that attempt to justify what has happened and somehow pin it on the host society. Do we intend to abolish personal responsibility altogether? Do we intend to play into the hands of those who hate and want to destroy us?

Look: German culture might not be the most accomodating place on Earth for foreigners. I have felt it, many others have felt it. But so what? No country can ever please all of its residents. And feeling unhappy/depressed/discriminated should never be accepted as an excuse for committing atrocities.

There is and always has been injustice everywhere. All societies have disenfranchised, discriminated and disgruntled minorities. People whom life or their peers have treated badly. And yet, they don’t go around detonating bombs, blowing innocent people up at random, or hacking them to death with axes and knives on trains and in the middle of the street. Because there is a societal taboo on these things. Because normally, they don’t even occur to people. Because how one deals with injustice and frustration has everything to do with the system of beliefs one chooses to embrace.

It is only when an ideology comes along to justify and encourage this kind of behavior as a legitimate consequence of someone’s “suffering” that horrors like these occur. There are deadly ideologies among us which glorify such a response to frustration and to injustice as legitimate, and we should not buttress them. We should not allow murder to become a pathway to notoriety and fame! Murder is not the way to give meaning to a meaningless life.

So when I see smart people – analysts, intellectuals, journalists – treading the mill of how society as a whole has supposedly wronged or failed these deranged criminals, and thus bears part of the responsibility, I can only shake my head.

I don’t think finding excuses for this kind of behavior is the way to go. Finding excuses only makes frenzied individuals feel even more legitimized – and legitimization is the third stage of conflict escalation. The next is radicalization.

Legitimizing this kind of behavior makes it socially acceptable. That is wrong! Our society should make it clear that absolutely nothing can justify this kind of behavior. We cannot go around saying, well, it makes sense, because they were bullied. Or, well, it makes sense, because they were exploited and discriminated against. No. We should not build these kinds of causal relationships – that somehow, these things are a “natural” consequence. Because by finding excuses for the perpetrators, by espousing theories which attempt to understand and even legitimize terrorism, we are gradually dismantling the taboo on mass murders. Turning them little by little into a socially accepted norm, something “we just have to live with” – and thus stoking the fire of the next round of “avengers”.

I am reminded now of a lesson in social psychology by Dan Ariely. In an attempt to stop vandalism in the Petrified Forest National Park, the Park’s management put up a sign pointing out the problem and informing visitors that so and so many tons of rock formations were being stolen every year. The result? Stealing only increased. Because instead of feeling shamed into protecting it (as our flawed intuition would tell us), visitors now felt that stealing was “the thing to do” in that park. Something along the lines of “if everyone else does it, and it’s so ubiquitous already, why should I be the only sucker who leaves without a souvenir?”  So instead of solving their problem, the park officials actually managed to worsen it, by creating the feeling that vandalism was the social norm in that park – which motivated people to continue to break the law.

Let us be smarter this time. Like something very beautiful I have read, let us become “apostles of a civilization of love”.

Toni Erdmann – A Must See

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Toni Erdmann, which has just opened in Germany, is a bizarre independent film that will make you embrace Romania with all you’ve got, and which also manages to lampoon the trappings of corporate life just the right amount. (The impossible loneliness, the ridiculous helplessness of wrestling with a dress that’s too tight amidst the barren luxury of a manicured apartment which is every bit as impersonal as any hotel room is only one such understated example.)

Absurd, funny, touching and unexpected. There will be tears of sadness, tears of derision, tears of joy. And insane amounts of laughter.

Great cast, beautifully acted and fresh, at times minimalistic, at others downright bombastic. Brilliantly directed by Maren Ade and professionally produced by Ada Solomon in Romania. A plea for humanity and tenderness. Please go see this movie.

Romania – Primeval beauty

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Romania, Europe’s tender wilderness. Here, the Cerna Valley and its surroundings, in the country’s southwest.

The scenery, a soft primordial crescendo. The climate mild, the people welcoming. And the fragrances – whether wild flowers and acacia or the smell of home-cooked meals – irresistible.

Rumänien, Europas sanfte Wildnis. Hier, das Cernatal und seine Umgebung im Südwesten des Landes.

Die Landschaft – eine ruhige, sich selbst überbietende Steigerung. Das Klima – mild, die Leute – bescheiden und gastfreundlich. Und die Duftwolken – ob Wildblüten und Akazien oder hausgemachtes Essen – unwiderstehlich.

 

Articolul complet în limba română, aici:
http://atelier.liternet.ro/articol/16825/Andreea-Sepi/Romania-luminoasa-Parcul-National-Domogled-Valea-Cernei.html

Swiss wonders 2015

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There are countries you can always count on. Countries that never let you down. Countries that make you walk on cloud nine. Literally.

Switzerland is one of them.

Jagged, proud mountain peaks as cathedrals of humility where human beings realize their smallness and settle in the eternal peace of their essential selves. All else is a surrogate, a delusion. The climb, the muscles burning, nails screeching on stone, the thirst. That’s all that matters. The cutting winds, the cold.

And then an evening in front of the fireplace in a pretty chalet or the generous, balmy afternoons around Lake Geneva.

The beauty, the calmness of a steady pace, the cleanliness. Marmots squeaking and ibex prancing at 2500 m above sea level.

The post bus worming its way on narrow ribbons of asphalt facing the abyss, sounding its horn before a hairpin curve.

Rain and drizzle and searing sun in August.

Switzerland. Expensive with good reason and worth every “centime“.

Typical chalet in Grimentz, Val d'Anniviers, Valais.

Typical chalet in Grimentz, Val d’Anniviers, Valais

Keeping those skis ready - Valais.

Keeping those skis ready – Grimentz, Valais

“Downtown” Grimentz, VS

Sorrebois Cablecar - Valais

Sorebois Cablecar – Val d’Anniviers (VS)

Cloudy afternoon above Grimentz, Valais

Cloudy and damp August afternoon – Alpage de Moiry, Val d’Anniviers (VS)

Lake Geneva (Leman) with beautiful gardens at Montreux (VD)

Lake Geneva (Leman) with lush gardens at Montreux (VD)

Lac Leman above Montreux at sunset - VD.

Montreux, home to perfect lawns and finest hotels, at sunset – VD

Lausanne (VD), home of the Olympic Museum (and the Olympic flame!)

Lausanne (VD), home of the Olympic Museum (and the Olympic flame!)

United Nations HQ in Geneva, Switzerland (GE)

United Nations HQ in Geneva, Switzerland (GE)

Place des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland

Place des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland

Typical Alpine village in Switzerland

Typical Alpine village in Switzerland

Moiry Glacier, Grimentz, Valais

Moiry Glacier, Grimentz, Valais

Artsy shot of Moiry lodge perched on a cliff, Valais

Artsy shot of Moiry lodge perched on a cliff, Valais

Steep slopes kissing, Valais

Steep slopes kissing, Valais

Look at all that rock!

Look at all that rock and ice!

Quiet bold climbers on ice, Moiry Glacier - Valais

Quiet bold climbers on ice, Moiry Glacier – Valais

Humbling greatness - Moriy Glacier, VS

Humbling, overpowering greatness – Moriy Glacier, VS

Jumble boutique with kind owner in St. Luc, VS

Jumble boutique with kind owner in St. Luc, VS

Flowerpots, St. Luc (VS)

Flowerpots, St. Luc (VS)

Glorious view of Matterhorn (Mt. Cervin - 4478 m) and Hotel Weisshorn (above St. Luc, VS)

Breathtaking view of Matterhorn (Mt. Cervin – 4478 m) and Hotel Weisshorn (above St. Luc, VS)

Not far from Matterhorn - Weißhorn (Dent Blanche), Zinalrothorn - view from Tignousa (VS)

Not far from Matterhorn –  possibly Weißhorn or Obergabelhorn more than 4,000 m high – view from Tignousa (VS)

On the planets trek (Sentier des Planetes) - Touno (VS)

Along the planets trek (Sentier des Planetes) – Touno (VS)

Glorious morning on Moiry dam (VS)

Glorious morning on Moiry dam (VS)

Moiry dam above Grimentz (VS)

Moiry dam above Grimentz (VS)

Bikers training for the Grand Raid - Moiry dam (VS)

Bikers training for the Grand Raid – Moiry dam (VS)

Moiry dam (VS) with typical alpine flora

Moiry dam (VS) with typical alpine flora

Roughness in stone

Roughness in stone (VS)

After the Simplon pass on the road to Italy. Au revoir, Suisse! Bis bald!

After the Simplon pass on the road to Italy. Au revoir, Suisse! Bis bald!

Copyright photography: Andreea Sepi 2015.

Limited series prints available for sale in 30×40 cm frame format, with high-quality passepartout and aluminium frames. EUR89,00.

The invisible pane

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the sun is hanging in the fir trees by the collar of its wintry coat.

old people have come out into the park to walk their dogs to its skirt.

the dogs prance and snoop. the people themselves walk at an angle, slanted,

like leaden-limbed mimes on a running belt that’s running

in the opposite direction.

they’re pushing against an invisible pane (pain?…)

they’re pressing ahead, pushing against tomorrow,

while everything hurtles them against yesterday.

they’ve seen it all in their lifetime. fought it all.

now they’re left fighting friction

and gravity.

SIENA – More than a color

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Talk about serendipity. Over the long Ascension weekend my husband’s company gave him a car to test for a minimum stretch of 1000 km, and I had always dreamed of going to Tuscany.

So we packed our finest clothes to go with the full-option BMW 5 series (amazing how sudden wealth changes people 😉 ) – which didn’t take too long seeing as we don’t really own any fine clothes – made a last-minute reservation on the Internet, threw the crib in the trunk and off we went.

The car cruised beautifully through the Brenner Pass and down into warm-hot-hotter Italy without any traffic jams. Smoothly it glided towards our destination as if on a pillow of air, and quite comfortably, too, if you don’t count my daughter’s incessant hysterical yelling and the fact that she squeezed the whole chocolate out of a croissant into my lap, on my only decent pants. We stopped at a gas station in the mountains to buy my son a pretzel and give him a chance to pee, and I ended up looking like I had just shit my pants. Obviously, at the exact moment when my boiling blood had soared to the white of my eyes and to the tips of my ears and I was finally ready to pull every single hair out of my scalp, an old lady comes smiling by with a half-encouraging half-chastising “Oh, now, it’s not so bad…”  Did you ever notice how these old women always sort of materialize out of nowhere and – completely without context – always  know better? 🙂 I had half a mind to lend her my daughter for the rest of the trip – see how relaxed you are after hours of uninterrupted noise levels of 90 dB and rising… But I diverge.

After Florence the roads got bumpier and once we passed Siena we were in rural territory, on the lookout for arrows pointing us to our hotel.  We knew our accommodation would be near a spa & wellness resort, but we had no idea our accommodation was the spa & wellness resort. In a 14th century hunting mansion and former monastery that had once hosted a Pope (and more famously, the Pope’s horse)! At the end of a dirt and gravel road lined with cypresses! Lost amid the rolling Tuscan hills, surrounded only by vast rustic domains! The kind of place where, by the side of the ever narrowing ribbon of a road, rippling soft-green pastures are dappled with poppies the color of young blood. Large farms scattered here and there on the slopes squat cozily among olive groves, peach orchards and lush family gardens. Acacia and elder trees, rambler roses and irises in full bloom. You get the picture.

And then the house itself. Two stories of bare brick in the typical Siena tan, with an aristocratic entrance and old wooden doors the size of fortress gates. Statues in the hallway and everything. Coats of arms on the walls, geraniums in pots, old wells adorned with wrought iron. Swimming pool, an inner patio with long chairs under cherry and mulberry trees, and a sauna in the former stables. Oh, and let’s not forget the tennis court out back, behind the former chapel. All at roughly 100€/night in a 2-bedroom, 40-square-meter apartment, with continental breakfast for four.  That’s San Lorenzo a Linari, near San Rocco i Filli, in the heart of Tuscany.

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I had been tipped by several artistically-inclined people about Siena and its surroundings. And I confirm. A gem of an old town, perched up on a hill, reddish-brown buildings the color of baked brick erected around and on top of each other in different layers while, beyond the ramparts, a movie-like countryside extends as far as the eye can see.  Siena’s Duomo is of white, pale rose and black marble with an inner space like dark blue skies splashed with gold stars, while the floors expose unbelievable stories in intarsia. Siena’s narrow, intricate streets climb and descend in a confusing maze and each neighborhood still honors its own flag, coat of arms and patron saint. And best of all, the amazing and atypical Piazza del Campo, the large sloping amphitheater with tower where traditional horse races among the different contrade are still being carried out today.

duomo siena

For lunch, we ended up at the Bagoga, a place on the via della Galluzzo recommended by the Routard, and which holds a whole array of food-related awards. With good reason. If you want to be surprised by soup served on a plate instead of in a bowl, order the ancient Tuscan specialty of Ribolitta. A wonderful, tasty combination of vegetables and bread that will leave you feeling full. For refreshment, try a local mixed salad, with the best fresh tomatoes you’ve ever tasted on this side of Paradise, combine that with the wild boar in onion-rosemary-and-red-wine sauce, and, if you’ve got guts, top it all with a home-made tiramisu. Or you can savor a gelatto in the Piazza. Ah, the simple joys of life!

Weekend afternoon in the Piazza

Don’t rush it. Allow Siena to really sink in. Try again on a clear evening, for better contrast and blue skies in your pictures. The town is small, but it offers more in the way of authentic Italian life, with its thick history, old University, its crypts, museums and its steep hills not yet completely overflowing with tourists than many a larger, more famous neighbor. You know what I am getting at. We found Florence to be loud, dirty, crowded and overrated, too big to be negotiated on foot with a buggy on the unevenly cobbled streets through pouring rain. No functional public toilets in the parking house, a traffic that would easily make it into Dante’s most sadistic circles of hell, and masses of people around the wide, squeezed-in pieces of architecture. Not to mention the hordes selling every tawdry colorful product made in China/India/Bangladesh/under the sun. Too much oriental bazaar. Choose Siena instead.

We got to witness young men in purple capes singing their warring chants in the terracotta-floored Piazza del Campo, American students sprawled carelessly in the sun and groups of Italian pupils on field trip learning about the specifics of the local Il Palio or the plague which wiped out more than half of the town’s population in the 1300s. For instance, that the local horse racing competition, among the toughest in the world, became official in 1310, when the date was set to August 16th of each year, to celebrate the Assumption on the Virgin. In 1656, the Palio delle Contrade was added, which happens on July 2nd of every year. The Duomo of Siena has elements of Roman, Gothic and Gothic-florentine style and hosts wonderful works by Michelangelo, Donatello, Andrea Bregno, Pisano, Pinturicchio, etc. Luckily, this time of year, there were no entrance queues. The local ceramics are also spectacular.

Siena Siena

In Piazza del Campo

If you have some time to spare, do visit the countryside. Pedal, or ride your motorbike, if you can. The roads are dangerously narrow, but the softly-oppressing heat of the early afternoon, the acacia fragrance floating like an invisible cloud in the air, the vineyards and hills and small villages and isolated estates that look just like what you have come to expect from Tuscany, really make it worth your while. Remember, you are never far from Chianti or Montepulciano territory. The wines are really good here. Small trattorias in the villages will usually have a house wine that is just delicious with your meal, or let them recommend one.

Tuscan village

Tuscan countryside and gardens

One appealing destination is the Castello Spaltenna (near Gaiole in Chianti). Take a breath on the sprawling manicured lawns that give way to sloping vineyards and have lunch on the terrace by the pool. You will feel like royalty. Nothing but the wind breezing on the estate. Or have a look inside their classy hand-made, hand-painted ceramics store. You can buy a set of unique dishes or the local wine. Nothing but elegance and style.

Olive groves

Copyright photos: Andreea Sepi.